The week in politics: Tempers flare in Juneau, Crawford announces, and love in the air

Juneau was abuzz this past week over a heated incident involving Senate President Charlie Huggins and Rep. Johnathan Kreiss-Tomkins, AKA “the kid.” It happened in the legislative break room and involved one of them getting backed up against the soda machine. Huggins, 67, is former Army special ops. When 25-year-old Kreiss-Tomkins was knocking on doors campaigning, he was often pegged for a high school student selling raffle tickets. Guess which one got backed up?

Tempers are flaring, and just in time: It’s the weekend of the annual legislative shoot. As in with real guns, and bows and arrows, not, in like “Shoot, what’s up with the all the bullies around here?” I’ve been told that historically, nobody’s face has appeared on a target. Not yet.

Perhaps Huggins will show wearing his camo kuspuk and pink tie.

Huggins was his normal perfect-gentleman-self when presiding over the passage on Tuesday of the “historic” gas line legislation that will allow the state to continue to negotiate to give a huge share of the pipeline away to TransCanada.

Do any of the same seven senators who called it “historic” this time remember how “historic” and “momentous” the last gas line bill was that they voted for? The one that gave TransCanada and ExxonMobil $300 million in state dollars, so far? For what, aside from locking us into doing business with TransCanada, nobody really knows.

The bill is now with the House, in this case is the more deliberative body. Rep. Mike Hawker has taken a beating over the Legislative Office deal he put together in Anchorage, but so far, he’s keeping a hawkish eye on the pipeline bill, as are Reps. Eric Fiege, Peggy Wilson, Craig Johnson and Geran Tarr.

Hawker staffer Rena Delbridge and Tarr staffer Jeff Stepp, smarties both, will help.

More legislative news: Carol Austerman, daughter of House Finance Co-chair Alan Austerman, made it official: She’s running for the seat her father will be vacating. Why not? Alaska is no stranger to a father passing his seat on to his daughter.

Republicans are excited about a new candidate, Dave Talerico, who is running for an open state House seat. He’s the former mayor of the Denali Borough and ran against Rep. David Guttenberg for that seat prior to redistricting.

Former state Sen. Ralph Seekins is rumored to be considering another run for Sen. Click Bishop’s seat, which means the website “Not Ralph Again” can get repackaged. Just Click on Ralph?

For their part, Dems are jazzed about former Rep. Harry Crawford’s Senate candidacy, turning out for him on Thursday night at Café Del Mundo, where he made his announcement. About 50 showed, including Vic Fischer, Jane Angvik, Eric Croft, Pat Abney, and former Daily News columnist Mike Doogan. Former Sen. Bettye Davis, whom Crawford had challenged in 2012, introduced him. There was said to be a festering resentment there, but as one attendee put it, “It looks like they buried the hatchet!”

So many hatchets to bury among the group, so many of whom have spent so many of their evenings over the decades at one another’s fundraisers. If Sen. Hollis French were there, he’d have experienced deja vu.

Crawford will be running against Anchorage Sen. Cathy Giessel, a nurse who conducts her legislative business with great purpose and efficiency. She doesn’t waste words and she doesn’t expect you to, either, particularly when you’re testifying on a bill that might poison your rivers, and change your way of life. Two minutes, exactly the time it takes to boil a perfect egg, is what you get before the bell goes off. No more. No less.

And you might barely get that if you’re one of her constituents who buys a $400 plane ticket to go see her and other legislators to talk about education funding. Just ask Alison Arians, who lives in Giessel’s district, owns a bakery, has a 9-year-old daughter, and prior to this session had never been involved in politics. Others, even Sen. Mike Dunleavy, took the time. Giessel shoved some charts her way, and stood for a quick photo op before Arians was quickly sent on her way.

In turn, Crawford got a $500 check and a dedicated volunteer.

Speaking of fundraisers and deja vu: Former Gov. Bill Sheffield had one on Tuesday night for mayoral candidate Dan Coffey, who’s always more charming in person than his reputation would suggest.

On to the Assembly, where the hot race is between incumbent Adam Trombley and former Rep. Pete Petersen. Trombley’s got the full force of the unions against him, former ally Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed Trombley’s park plan. Retribution for pulling support for Sullivan’s tennis court?

The tennis mess made its way into a radio ad, which is rumored to have upset Rep. Lindsey Holmes who was also involved in the tennis court affair. The problem? The ad is Ivan Moore’s baby, and Moore runs Holmes’ campaign.

Anyway, if Trombley can eke out a win here, he’ll be sufficiently seasoned for induction into the deja vu club, spending many evenings with Alaska’s political class, going to fundraisers for the same people, running over and over again.

Finally, it’s Spring Break! If you’re tired of deja-vuing and find yourself in Seattle, visit Sara Adrienne Designs, the new interior design business of Sara Knowles, the youngest daughter of former Gov. Tony and Susan Knowles. And what’s spring without love? No word on if House minority leader Chris Tuck, the most eligible bachelor in Alaska, has found it. But former Valley Sen. Linda Menard has. She’s newly engaged to Michael Cody Post. They’ll be making it official this year.

And a happy birthday to GOP Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who turned 58 on Friday.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


This piece was originally published in the Anchorage Daily News. .


18 thoughts on “The week in politics: Tempers flare in Juneau, Crawford announces, and love in the air

  1. admin

    Mostly because I don’t know this to be the case. Why don’t we call in another pipeline company just to see? Perhaps it would be better for the state just to sever it’s ties with AGIA, pay up and start fresh? And you’re telling me that after 30 years of waiting, we can’t afford one more year to make sure we get it right? Hell, how about a few more months? Investigate. Call a special session in summer.

  2. Lynn Willis

    Reardless of the purpose for the spending you asked how could we spend money on AKLNG without enabling legislation and I showed you how.

  3. Jon

    So we shouldn’t hire experts to help state officials understand the most important issue facing the state?

  4. Jon

    Because TC is likely going to spend billions on the project and is exposing itself to considerable risk. moreovet, if the legislature’s consultantats are to believed, the cost to the state of TC’s involvement pretty minimal – were are not giving up much revenue over the life of the project but we will save billions in the near term by having TC participate. Plus we get a partner who is aligned with the state – e.g. TC and the state will push for expansions of the pipeline if additional gas reserves are discovered. Finally to divorce TC will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars and will likely stall he project. Every year of delay costs the state $800 million. Commercial transactions involve trade offs. Looks like the better deal is to stay with TC, allow them to minimize our costs and reduce our risk, and continue with the considerable momentum. Why do you disagree?

  5. Lynn Willis

    Who ever asked me how we could already be paying for the AKLNG project I would point out that those legislative and executive consultants who have prepared studies and who are now on standby in Juneau aren’t working for free . Also a considerable amount of state money (considerable to some of us yet certainly not to some Alaskans especially the big spenders in Juneau.) has been spent on the effort to create the MOU ,HOA and vet the enabling legislation.
    Scott Goldsmith told Senate Finance this morning that we are now burning through our savings reserves at the rate of 7 million dollars per day. How could that be happening when the both legislature and executive branches are controlled by the party of “fiscal conservativism”? “Don’t Worry – Be Happy” should replace the Alaska Flag Song.

  6. admin

    Thanks Jon K. What I’m most concerned about is the 12 percent guaranteed return on equity. Why are we giving the ROR to a Canadian company? Why not give it to ourselves? Why not get another bid from another pipeline?

  7. Lynn Willis

    The AGDA/ASAP project will remain funded for the foreseable future as the Governor stated to be the “ace in the hole to insure gas to Alaskans” . I like Dan Fauske’s comment that he will only pursue the ASAP line as long as the cost of gas does not exceed the cost of imported gas – certainly no such limit mentioned on the cost of AKLNG gas to Alaskans.
    AGDA will also have a seperate role in AKLNG if SB 138 becomes law. Meanwhile as of today AGIA is still a viable project and keeps running up a tab to the tune of a least an additional 130 million dollars we now owe them beyond the 330 million we have already paid them plus perhaps treble damages if we terminate the AGIA contract without TC consent (This is the gun to our head to accept TC as a partner) . So we are currently paying for three projects. But don’t worry be happy because its only money.

  8. Jon K

    Three projects? My understanding is that everything from AGIA will automatically be converted to the AK LNG project and that much of the work can be used on this project. I’m all for killing ASAP.

  9. Jon K

    Thanks for your concern. I confess I get a bit annoyed when journalists act like politicians and mindlessly throw around inflammatory phrases like “give away” and mislead and misinform Alaskans about one of the most important issues facing the state. At bottom I’m just disillusioned by Alaska’s pathetic press, in particular Dermot Cole and Pat Forgey, and how sad it is that they cannot fairly and accurately cover this topic so Alaskans can understand what is going on. As for Amanda, I too enjoy reading her stuff. I just expect more from her because she is smart and honest.

  10. Lynn Willis

    I am generally interested and not willing to repeat the AGIA mistake once again nor just shovel money at another half-baked idea so somebody can look good going into the election for Governor.
    Do you appreciate that at this time, to varying degrees, we are paying state funds to pursue three gas pipeline projects (- AGIA, AGDC/ASAP and AKLNG) at the same time. If that isn’t bad management I don’t know what is.
    This time around we deserve to clearly specify our relationship with Transcanada so we can fire them, adjust to them being sold, or even going bankrupt and not be obligated to pay for our relationship with them seemingly forever.
    I just finished watching House Resources including a presentation by Enalytica. I very much appreciate that most of these Representatives, unlike the Senators, are closely focusing on our future relationship with Transcanada and asking very important questions regarding why we should partner again with TC for financial and technical reasons..
    Now I hope to hear from the AOGCC and have them explain what the status is of the various reservoirs depletion plans so that we don’t sell gas which might be used to extract much more valuable oil..

  11. worried about Jon K.

    I’m worried about Jon K. From his posts and comments, the guy must be an engineer and works for an oil company. He doesn’t appear to have much of a personality and is overly uptight. Calm down Jon K. Amanda’s column is a fun and gossipy style column. Most of us enjoy it. Climb down from your tree of stress and enjoy life and learn to laugh. I don’t know you but can tell you are anything but a barrel of laughs. Amanda, I love your columns.

  12. 357

    Charlie Huggins is one of my favorite legislators. He does a great job running the state senate. Really wish he would run for the #2 spot on the state ticket with Parnell

  13. Jon K

    Amanda, Instead of continuing to take swipes at the SB 138 in the ADN and in this blog, why don’t you provide a reasoned critque? The drive-by snarking doesn’t help advance public discourse. While the press is certainly filed with skepticism (and hostillity from folks like Dermot Cole) towards this project and the administration, it would be nice if someone other than Tim Bradner or Larry Persily could engage in a more thoughtful and balanced discussion. In particular, I suggest you watch Black and Veatch’s senate finance testimony from last week on why they think it makes sense to have TC involved in the project and then explan why they are wrong or why you disagree – i.e., explain why you still think that TC’s involvement is some “give away” without sufficient benefit to the state. The simple fact is that having TC involved in the project provides the state with a lot of benefits and ending the relationship with TC will have profound repurcussions for the project and for the state’s purse. You have not given any indication that you understand what the costs and benefits are of tossing TC overboard. Just to be clear, I am NOT saying the administration is beyond reproach and questions shouldn’t be asked about this project, the legislation, or why TC should continue to participate. I’m just hoping (naively?) that our journalists could at least demonstrate that they are informed and understand the administration’s position before leveling attacks. Based on what you have writen here and in the ADN, I don’t have much confidence that you actually understand why the administration thinks there is value in having TC participate in the project.

  14. Lynn Willis

    Seems Alaska now has a very expensive trophy wife named Transcanada or “TC” for short. You either keep her in the style to which she feels entitled by allowing her to participate in both the AGIA and the AKLNG projects or you lose your shirt in a messy divorce settlement.
    Amanda, you ask a most relevant question regarding exactly what information have we purchased from Transcanada (TC) relevant to this new route to Nikiski for 330 million dollars since 2008 and for which we still owe an additional 130 million dollars if we don’t include Transcanada in this next project? I might want to know exactly how much could we owe in damages to TC if we sever the AGIA contract now.
    I certainly hope the State House won’t railroad this gas line plan as did the Senate. Many areas of concern still should be evaluated including the effort now by Japan to return to Nuclear energy and to invest significantly in renewable sources to produce electricity instead of using natural gas, the ability of Transcanada to provide necessary support to the AKLNG project when they have other large projects on their plate like the Keystone XL pipeline and pipelines in British Columbia that will compete with us, and the logistics and cost of moving this gas or energy produced from this gas to other regions of Alaska.
    This week in House Resources should tell the tale. Unlike the Senate, the House might be much more willing to evaluate objective analysis from others than just those the Senate allowed to testify “by invitation only”.

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